Performers, artists and artisans are gearing up for the 14th iteration of CARIFESTA taking place in Trinidad and Tobago, 16-25 Aug.
The festival, which got its start in 1970, draws participants from across the Caribbean region to celebrate the cultures of the islands. Marcia Muttoo of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation said Cayman, which has participated in the event since 1981, expects to send a contingent of about 50 people to this year’s celebration, some of whom are yet to be determined.
“We still have auditions this weekend for dancers,” Muttoo said.
The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands has also not yet selected the artists who will represent the island, Gallery Director Natalie Urquhart said.
Featuring everything from traditional craftwork to educational seminars to large-scale music concerts, Muttoo said CARIFESTA is “an opportunity for the members of the Caribbean region to show off an aspect of our being that is not always the one that comes up in the news”.
Among the participants Cayman will send, there are actors, dancers, storytellers, musicians, artists, chefs and academics. Muttoo said the latter group will hopefully be able to participate in some of the symposia being held during the festival.
For the first time, the Cayman National Museum will send two cultural representatives, said Debra Barnes-Tabora, curator and collections manager. She said Carmen Conolly and Jerilo Rankine will demonstrate traditional crafts and will likely teach some classes in those crafts.
Conolly, Barnes-Tabora said, will do embroidery, plaiting and other crafts, as well as cook traditional Cayman dishes. Rankine will show off his net making and knitting skills, she said.
“This year there seems to be much more of a focus on tradition and crafts,” Barnes-Tabora said. “To participate in CARIFESTA in this manner illustrates [the museum’s] ability to showcase our heritage.”
Urquhart said the museum’s submissions would likely be heritage-driven as well. She said she’s still waiting to find out the parameters for the art component of the festival.
“We’ll supply the work of several Caymanian artists,” she said. “We’re currently exploring a maritime-inspired exhibition, exploring Cayman’s strong maritime traditions.”
While CARIFESTA tends to have a stronger emphasis on such things as traditional performing arts and food, “It is important that we have a presence,” she said.
Muttoo said the event is not only an opportunity to showcase Cayman’s cultural offerings, but it is also an opportunity to network with other Caribbean nations.
“This is vital,” she said. “There are so many links and connections. Some of our fashion designers made connections last time around [during the 2017 event in Barbados]. It does give you openings.”
The Cayman Government stepped up its support of the event this year, Muttoo said, providing $100,000 of the estimated $150,000 cost of sending participants to the festival.
Officials, she said, understand “it’s another way of attracting people to Cayman”.
Cayman residents will get a sneak peak at the festival performances when the cultural foundation puts on a showcase at the Harquail Theatre 27-28 July.